[This post is from Artorius Mackenzie’s point of view.]
“Oh, that doesn’t sound ominous at all.” Astrid circled him slowly, arms still crossed and her brow furrowed as she stared at him. “Because, you know, it’s not like we both don’t know what the absolute largest question is.”
“Enlighten me, because I’m clueless.”
Astrid deadpanned, though the look in her eyes was the one she’d inherited from her mother. “What bothered you so much about all of this that you’re out here instead of back in the village doing all the stuff you usually do on a day like today?”
“On a day like today, I’d usually be out fishing by now.”
“Not when Lin’s gotten himself into recent trouble,” Astrid said, stopping square in front of him. “In that scenario, you’re with him. You’re always with him unless Kay’s waved you off. So what the hell gives, Tory? What’s going on?”
He sucked in a breath and tried to avoid her gaze, focusing instead on the river. It was hard, given that she stood nearly as tall as he did and she’d done a good job of planting herself directly in front of him—as if she’d known what he’d try.
“You can’t even look at me,” she said softly. “It must be bad.”
“Yes and no,” he murmured.
“Then why won’t you look at me?”
He blew out a quiet, annoyed breath and squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds. “Because this is damned hard.”
“If it was easy, you wouldn’t be out here, Tory.”
That was the rub, wasn’t it? He massaged his forehead between his brows. “The strangers came looking for something—someone.”
“They usually do, based on the stories. It was Uncle Phelan, wasn’t it?”
“I wish,” he muttered. “They were looking for me. Or, more precisely, someone they think I might be.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I know.”